National 2.8.2016 03:01 pm

Ranger saved by grabbing bull by horns

Don English. Photo: Debbie English

Don English. Photo: Debbie English

The charge ended in a potentially fatal head-butt – male buffaloes weigh up to 900kgs – and the animal threw him into the air a number of times.

Well-known KNP-ranger, Don English, held onto the horns of a buffalo which attacked him on July 26. This is what might have saved his life.

English was seriously injured during a cut-back exercise in the Kruger National Park’s (KNP) Pretoriuskop vicinity close to Napi Rock. The buffalo head-butted him and tossed him into the air a number of times.

A source close to English told Lowvelder that he eventually grabbed hold of the buffalo’s horns and hung onto them until the animal finally succumbed.

English, who has been a ranger for 30 years, and is considered a legend by Kruger peers and visitors, was part of a team conducting a cut-back exercise on buffaloes and obtaining tissue for TB tests.

Ray Thakhuli, general manager of media and public relations at SANParks, recently confirmed to Lowvelder that 200 buffaloes, out of a population of 47 000, would be culled.

English was the leader of the team on the ground. Three buffaloes were darted from a helicopter to allow the ground team to approach them to harvest tissue for TB testing. TB in buffaloes is an extensive problem in the KNP as it threatens lions as well.

English approached a large buffalo bull which was lying down. When he was a  few metres away, the animal got up and stormed him. The charge ended in a potentially fatal head-butt (male buffaloes weigh up to 900kg). The animal threw him into the air a number of times.

Buffaloes are aggressive and unpredictable. Through the years and his extensive field work, English built up a wealth of knowledge about buffaloes. His colleagues claimed it was this knowledge that sparked his instinct to hold on and wait for the animal to succumb.

Grabbing the bull by the horns might have saved him his life.

A medical doctor attended to English immediately and he was airlifted to Mediclinic Nelspruit where he was treated for three broken ribs and several bruises. He is still in ICU .

Robyn Baard, spokesperson for the hospital, said his condition was stable and that he was “fairly upbeat”.

English’s daughter, Debbie English, a veterinary student, posted the following message on Facebook: “Life can change in an instant and a person must be so grateful for what one has! We are so fortunate that dad is alright! You are a hero and a legend in KNP and to so many friends and family and I guess you’re much tougher than a dugga boy (a colloquial reference to a lone buffalo or one in a small bachelor herd)”.

SANParks confirmed that, following the incident, the three buffaloes were euthanised as planned.

Caxton News Service

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